Cole's bat helps propel Bucs to sweep of D-backs

Cole's bat helps propel Bucs to sweep of D-backs

PITTSBURGH -- Until Josh Harrison hit a two-run double in the sixth inning, right-hander Gerrit Cole had supplied the Pirates' only offense in their 8-3 win and series sweep vs. the D-backs at PNC Park on Thursday.

Cole hit a three-run home run to left-center field, scoring Francisco Cervelli and Gregory Polanco and pulling the Pirates ahead 3-1 in the second inning. Arizona got two runs back in the sixth inning off reliever A.J. Schugel, recalled from Triple-A on Tuesday to fill the spot of the injured Ryan Vogelsong.

Vogelsong returns to PNC Park to visit teammates

"[Cole has] been working on a different approach at the plate, and it's in play," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's made some adjustments, and he's had to roll up his sleeves on the mound to get us where we were able to get with him, so a well-earned victory today for our players."

Scratched from the lineup Wednesday due to illness, Harrison bounced a two-run double off the right field wall to take the lead. Harrison is hitting .414 with runners in scoring position and two outs. The Pirates padded their lead with a three-run eighth inning, and closer Mark Melancon picked up save No. 17.

Harrison's two-run double

Harrison said he was too ill to pick up a bat on Wednesday but felt well enough to pinch-hit on Thursday. His confidence at the plate didn't waver although he's still not at full strength.

"Just being ready to hit, and knowing that the pitcher's the one in trouble, not me," Harrison said. "And knowing to to stay within myself and all my strengths."

Harrison on Bucs' 8-3 win

The D-backs amassed 13 hits, including seven in Cole's five innings, but they also stranded 13 baserunners, going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.

"We had opportunity -- opportunity after opportunity -- to score runs early in the game and we did not execute," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "That's something that we're going to get better at. The younger guys are getting more experience in these pressure-type situations, and at some point it's going to turn and instead of hitting a ground ball to the pitcher or a popup, they're going to drive the ball in the gap and we're going to score a bunch of runs."

After starting the season 0-2, Cole has a 1.04 ERA in his last four starts. This win caps an 8-2 homestand for the Pirates, in which they won all three series.

Strikeouts and homers and doubles, oh my: In the second inning, Cole hit a three-run home run that gave the Pirates a 3-1 lead. The 409-foot shot, per Statcast™, is the second home run of his career. Cole is the first Pirates pitcher in almost 20 years to hit a home run and a double in the same game -- the last Pirate to do so was Danny Darwin on May 29, 1996. More >

Cole's double to right-center

Bailing out a friend: Pirates reliever Kyle Lobstein entered in the top of the seventh with the Pirates holding a slim 5-3 lead but allowed his first two batters to reach base. Lobstein was replaced in favor of Rob Scahill, who got Chris Owings to ground into a double play and Yasmany Tomas to line out and end the inning. Both pitchers were recalled from Triple-A on Wednesday.

'Pen struggles: Before Wednesday's game, Hale said his level of concern regarding his bullpen was "rising." Thursday did nothing to lower it with Jake Barrett coming in and allowing a two-run double to the first hitter he faced. Meanwhile Andrew Chafin was charged with three runs in the eighth, which were let in by Evan Marshall. Before Thursday's game, Hale hinted that roster moves could be coming soon in the bullpen.

"This is the Major Leagues," Hale said. "If the performance isn't there we have to make changes. There will be some changes, I'm sure. That's just part of the game."

Road wrap: The D-backs finished up their road trip, which also included a stop in St. Louis, with a 2-4 mark. The trip started promisingly enough when the D-backs took two of three in St. Louis, but unraveled in the sweep at Pittsburgh.

"We haven't played good enough baseball to play .500," Hale said. " We have to look at everything, whether it's roster, lineup construction, bullpen construction. We're going to have to visit all those. We just need to get ourselves right and play better baseball and execute."

"For me, it's more about just having fun out there and competing and trying to make a difference in the game in any aspect I can because I feel like my teammates are trying to do the same thing. So I owe it to them to go out there and fight." -- Cole, on Pirates pitchers taking pride in contributing on offense

Hurdle clinched his 458th win, passing Hall-of-Famer Pie Traynor (457-406) for sole possession of the No. 6 spot on the all-time wins list for Pittsburgh managers.

D-backs: Robbie Ray will try and get the D-backs five-game homestand off on the right foot Friday when he gets the ball against the Padres at 6:40 p.m. MT. Ray allowed a pair of runs (one earned) over five innings in his last start against the Cardinals. He is 0-3 with a 4.96 ERA in three career starts against San Diego.

Pirates: The Pirates will continue their 21-consecutive game stretch when they take on the Rangers in Arlington at 8:05 p.m. ET on Friday. Left-hander Jonathon Niese (4-2, 4.75 ERA) will start opposite left-hander Cole Hamels (5-0, 2.83 ERA).

Watch every out-of-market regular-season game live on MLB.TV.

Steve Gilbert has covered the D-backs for since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB.

Sarah K. Spencer is a reporter for and covered the Pirates on Thursday.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.